A planned 32km greenway along a busy tourist route in south Kerry should be studied to ascertain its impact on the environment, due to the sensitive nature of the landscape and the scale of the project.
The €4m amenity, from Glenbeigh to Renard, will run along the route of an old Great Southern & Western railway line that involves tunnels and magnificently constructed viaducts.
A dispute has arisen between state agencies and some of the 170 private landowners along the greenway. A small number of farmers and landowners are concerned about land severance and privacy.
An Bord Pleanála decided an environmental impact study was required, after Kerry Co Council acquired some of the land through compulsory purchase acquisition, when full agreement could not be reached.
The local authority had sought a direction from the planning body.
The council sought direction from An Bord Pleanála as to whether its proposal would have significant effects on the environment.
The greenway route is partly, though not exclusively, along the railway line, which operated between 1895 and 1960, and the land has been incorporated into farms and back gardens and, in some cases, has been built upon — 29% of the 32km route will be off-line, into ‘greenfield’ lands.
The proposal is to construct a macadam road, up to 3.0m wide, for cyclists and walkers, with fencing and with access for crossing tractors and maintenance vehicles.
Just a small section, around 1 km, will be shared with the N70.
The works will involve the use of spectacular, iron-built bridges and protected viaducts over Kells and Dingle Bay, as well as old tunnels.
Scrub clearance, as well as repair to the Valencia River and Gleensk viaducts, is needed.
A new steel bridge, 15m long, will also have to be provided between the two tunnels at Drung Hill, near the Mountain Stage approach.
Yesterday, a spokesman for the county council said the planning appeal board’s direction was unlikely to delay any further the greenway, which is already well behind schedule. Some of the assessment work has already been carried out by the council in planning the route, the spokesman said.
The CPO process will also have to be dealt with by An Bord Pleanála, and the two parties will work in tandem, a spokesman added.
Meanwhile, the greenway will operate through designations of natural heritage, special conservation, and protection.
The impact will result in habitat loss, especially where the railway has reverted to semi-natural vegetation.
The tunnel work will impact on bats and the off-line work could well uncover archaeological finds, planning inspector, Michael Dillon, said.
“Impacts from this development are likely to be locally and, in certain instances, regionally significant. The area is not densely populated, but is heavily used by tourists,” he said.
The board, meanwhile, supported the decision of its inspector.
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